Immigration rule change may affect hundreds in state

  • By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
  • Thursday, January 3, 2013 4:41pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

SEATTLE — Several hundred Washington families are expected to benefit from a U.S. immigration rule change announced this week that makes it easier to keep American citizens together with their illegal immigrant spouses and children.

The legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project said Thursday that it’s too early to say how much time and effort the new rule will save families.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it comes about in practice,” said Matt Adams.

Before the rule change, which goes into effect March 4, many illegal immigrants had to leave the country before they could ask the federal government to waive a three- to 10-year ban from returning to their American families.

Under the new rule, a U.S. citizen can petition for a waiver while the noncitizens remain in this country waiting for a decision. They will still have to prove that a separation will cause extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent.

Illegal immigrants will still have to return to their home country to finish the process, but the new rule is expected to save them months of waiting time and shorten the separation from their loved ones.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services office was unable to estimate how many people from Washington state would be affected by the change. Adams estimated it would be several hundred, based on the fact that several hundred people seek legal help each year in this state concerning the situation affected by the rule change.

U.S. officials estimated the rule change would affect more than 24,000 people across the nation but could not break the number down state-by-state.

In a news conference about the rule change Wednesday, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services, said the time abroad for the consular interviews will be reduced from months to weeks.

Adams said the change isn’t everything immigrant rights advocates want, but it’s a move in the right direction.

“I don’t think it’s a final solution. We need Congress to act,” he said.

The waiver shift is the most recent result of President Barack Obama’s changing immigration policy without congressional action. Congressional Republicans have criticized the president’s efforts as granting “backdoor amnesty” to illegal immigrants.

Adams said immigrant activists are not sure why the rule change only affects families of American citizens, when a larger group of legal permanent residents also are affected by similar rules that cause families to be separated.

“It could be that they want to roll it out on a smaller scale,” he said, adding, “I’m not optimistic that they will later revisit this, at least not in the near future.”

————

Online:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services: www.uscis.gov

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: www.nwirp.org

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read